Should Prostitution be legal in India? If not, why? If so, what will happen as a result?

Recently in India there has been much discussion on legalization of prostitution. Of course legalization of prostitution has always been a debatable issue in India. We cannot take an actual statistics on opinion in favour of or against this concept. But approximately it appears to be 50:50.

Those, in favour of the concept, opine as follows

  • It is the oldest profession in the world irrespective of whether it is legalized or not legalized.

  • Those who practice this profession are mostly women and as such need sympathy from all corners.

  • After legalization Govt may levy reasonable professional tax on them so that Govt revenue will increase.

  • Social prestige of the prostitutes will be increased.

  • It will be easier for their children to be settled and established in the society.

sex workers Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

Those against the concept, opine as follows

  • Legalization of prostitution will increase immorality in the society.

  • It will increase the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

  • The prostitutes will become high-handed and may be tempted to dishonor and disrespect the other ladies in the society.

  • Legalization may gradually increase their number.

  • Unless their children are properly placed in the society, they will turn into loafers, vagabonds and various kinds of unsocial elements. Legalization will increase the number of such youth. They are expected to be psychopathic. Increase in psychopathic youth mass will increase the law and order situations in the society, thereby leading to many unfavorable consequences.

Prostitution Legal Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

Some speak in favour and others against. In this particular issue to speak in favour or against, to write in favour or against, to discuss in favour or against, to opine in favour or against is easy. But if you sincerely want to solve the problem of prostitution in India it is really very difficult.

If we think prostitution is a profession which deserves to be hated and consequently think that prostitutes are to be degraded in  society, then we are absolutely wrong. If we go into depth of life history of any prostitute, we will realize that it is almost always pathetic.

Although there may be very few male prostitutes (I have not yet seen a male prostitute in my life), for all practical purposes a prostitute means a female prostitute. Most female prostitutes become prostitute because of circumstances. Most, probably none have happily opted for prostitution.

If we look into the dictionary meaning of “prostitution” we will find: “Prostitute is a person who has sex for money. The work of a prostitute is known as prostitution.”

Similarly if you look into the dictionary meaning of profession we will find: “a type of job that needs special training or skill, especially one that needs high level of education.”

If you go by the above criteria, then prostitution is not a profession at all, because it needs neither “special training or skill” nor “high level of education.”

If prostitution is not a profession, where arises the question of legalization ? The ridiculous paradox is that although prostitution is not a profession it is known as world’s oldest profession.

The reason behind this paradox is that prostitution is not regarded as a profession, but is prevalent in the human society as an illegal,immoral, unethical and degraded negative profession since the inception of human civilization.

Although prostitution is generally hated and looked at as an immoral and unethical negative profession, but it appears to be not so if we look into the history and mythological history of India. Many of us have heard of mythological stories, historical stories and have seen dramas and cinemas about many famous prestigious prostitutes of the past. However I wonder how many of these stories are real, how many are fictitious, how many are a blend of reality with fiction, imagination and exaggeration?

legalise prostitution Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

Despite the general hatred against prostitution it is continuing in India. The general impression of the public is that prostitution is illegal and unethical. But if you make genuine analysis of legal aspects of prostitution, it is not illegal in India. I am not going into the legal analysis of prostitution which a lawyer can well understand, but I can emphatically say that the legal aspects create confusion not only for the lay man but also for the prostitute herself.

Is it Really Legal or Illegal?

Similarly genuinely speaking prostitution is also not unethical according to the religious principles of India (“If you accept some trade as a profession to earn your livelihood, then you should not quit it because it has certain demerits. Remember that all professions are entangled with some demerit or other, just as natural fire is always entangled with smoke”, Shreemad Bhagavad Geeta Chapter XVIII Shloka 48).

But arguments as mentioned above sometimes do not solve the problem. With the above-mentioned principles of religious ethics a supari-killer or a dacoit may claim that his profession is also ethical, because he earns his livelihood by such work.

In such cases we have to think whether the human society accepts the above-mentioned activities as profession at all. If the human society accepts these activities as profession, then only consideration of whether these are ethical or not will arise.

In ancient India there was a time when there were four castes in the society (Brahman, Khyatriya, Vaishya and Shoodra). The Brahmans used to earn their livelihood through worship of God or gods. The Khyatriyas used to earn their livelihood by giving protection to others in the society from the harmful human beings as well as other violent creatures. The Vaishyas used to earn their livelihood by cultivation and business etc. The Shoodras used to work as servants of the other three castes thereby earning their livelihood. The activities of each of these castes were known as their professions. The society accepted their activities as their profession. Once upon a time in India caste-ism was so tight that a man borne in one caste was not allowed to perform the professional work of another caste.

The caste-ism was not much harmful to the human society in ancient India. Rather it was beneficial in many respects. Gradually it was polluted by many unpalatable issues like hatred, torture, slavery, untouchable etc due to which many social reformers raised their voice against caste-ism. At present caste-ism has been almost rooted out from India (not completely of course). So professions are no more attributed or distributed according to caste.

Prostitution and Legalities Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

Now-days an Indian is designated by his trade or occupation as doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, businessman etc. His/her job is regarded in the society as his/her profession. Such professions are legal and ethical. These are beneficial to the person concerned as well as to the society. Activities of a supari-killer, dacoit or the like, which are not accepted legally by Indian Law, cannot be regarded as ethical by religious arguments or any other arguments.

Prostitution according to the present Indian Law is not illegal. “Not illegal” indirectly means “legal”. In that case question arises, why there is so much debate at present on the issue of “legalization of prostitution”? Is it not ridiculous to legalize something which is already legal?

The following are the reasons for such ridiculous consideration:

  • Although prostitution in India is not illegal and some say it is the oldest profession in the world, it is still not generally recognized as a profession by the common Indians.

  • What to speak of common people, many educated people and even prostitutes themselves do not know that their profession is legal.

  • Most (almost all) are not at all happy with their profession.

  • Nobody aspires to become a prostitute in her life.

  • The society does not give any prestige to the prostitutes.

  • The children of the prostitutes face a lot of problems in society.

  • Friends, relatives, other people, children of the prostitutes and even they themselves do not think their profession to be prestigious.

  • Despite the dramas, films, stories, novels, discussions in TV and other medias showing sympathy to their profession there is no change in the social attitude towards their profession.

What is Legalization of Prostitution?

In view of the above discussions let us now consider what do we mean by legalization of prostitution. Further legalization of this so called legal (most probably “not illegal” is the proper term) profession obviously means to uplift the status of their profession to the level of other prestigious professions in the society. To make it more simple, it will be uplifted so that the prostitutes will be able to open a clinic like a doctor or a chamber like a lawyer where they can give the service of sexual intercourse to their clients by charging regular fees per intercourse. Sounds to be highly ridiculous. But at present legalization of prostitution means giving their profession prestigious social status equal to other established prestigious professions.

human trafficking Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

Seems to be impossible. But may be achieved in the long run if the following steps are taken from now onwards:

  • General people as well as the intelligentsia of the society should sincerely remove hatred towards this profession. Only giving empty favorable opinions in the meetings, medias etc will not serve the purpose.

  • Young girls (also boys to become male prostitutes) after passing +2 should choose prostitution as their profession and their parents should give them permission happily and wholeheartedly.

  • Government should open institutes to impart skilled training to the candidates and provide well educated and well-trained teachers for this purpose.

  • Government should also create job opportunities for them.

  • Society should neither look down upon such trained and educated prostitutes nor on their clients.

  • Children of these prostitutes should be given equal opportunities like other children.

The above-mentioned points are only a few for this revolutionary project. Careful thinking will generate further innumerable points which will make everybody’s mind so much puzzled that some may become really mad. Most probably such a project will produce far more detrimental effects than beneficial. I projected this only to indicate how impracticable it is to think of legalization of prostitution without going into the depth of consideration of its various aspects.

Alternatively efforts may be made to reduce, remove or eradicate prostitution from the Indian society. If Government and some genuine social organizations can rehabilitate, then reduction is possible. But removal or eradication or prevention is impracticable. Attempts have been made in the past to rehabilitate them by Govt and non-Govt organizations with no significant results. The cause of the insignificant effect may be due to weak efforts, weak response or both. The situation demands some stronger efforts by the Govt for rehabilitation of the prostitutes, which may produce reduction of the problem if not eradication.

Further newer and better methods for eradication and prevention of prostitution is preferable to further legalization of prostitution, because eradication and prevention will never produce detrimental effect on the Indian society even if not highly successful. Further legalization of this not illegal profession is liable to cause further harmful effects on the society, because even-if this profession is legalized to the maximum possible extent, the Indians will never accept prostitution as a healthy, noble or palatable profession.

In this connection I am placing a few critical questions before the readers with most probable answers. Any answers other than those already mentioned under the questions are highly solicited in the space for comments.

Women Should India Legalize Worlds Oldest Profession?

A few Q&A’s

Q- Will any sensible young girl of any prestigious family prefer to become a professional prostitute in her future life?

Ans- No.

Q- Will any sensible prestigious parent allow their young daughter to become a professional prostitute in future?

Ans- No.

Q- If a huge amount of money is offered as salary, can the above-mentioned answers turn into yes?

Ans- It is extremely difficult to answer this question sincerely.

We heard in our childhood days a proverb which goes as follows:

When wealth is gone, nothing is gone.

When health is gone, something is gone.

When character is gone, everything is gone.

In our childhood (about 60 years ago) the above proverb was correct to some extent (not to full extent). But now-a-days in India the same proverb runs in the reverse manner as follows:

When character is gone, nothing is gone.

When health is gone, something is gone.

When wealth is gone, everything is gone.

In India at present money plays the greatest role. Nobody bothers for morality. In such a situation if Govt or some private company offers a huge salary for the profession of prostitution, who knows a few Indian girls may come forward to build up their career as professional prostitute?

Most of the prostitutes have become prostitutes only to earn money to manage themselves and their family. I am not going to narrate the story of the prostitutes, because each one has a pathetic and tragic trail of events. Almost none has adopted this trade willingly. A few months ago I came across a news in one English Daily: “Consequent upon Govt of Odisha providing rice at the rate of one rupee per kg, many prostitutes have left their flesh trade.” This news may not be hundred percent true, but there may be some truth in it. It is a fact that if Govt can provide alternative clean profession for them, most of them will quit their flesh trade.

But if an alluring amount money is offered (suppose one Rs lakh per month) by the Govt or by a private company will the young Indian girls gladly accept the job of a legalized prostitute in the sense in which legalization of the profession of prostitution is used in this article? I think no sensible Indian girl will opt for this, may whatever alluring amount be offered (even to the tune of Rs one crore per month or more).

Some of my friends commented: “It is your sheer overconfidence over the chastity and morality of the Indian girls.” I wonder, am I really too confident of the chastity and morality of the Indian girls??

When kissing, hugging, caressing etc with negligible amount of clothes on the body are shown on the big screen as well as on the small screen without any hesitation, when almost nude bathing scenes are performed without any reluctance, when the act of sexual intercourse is shown in the bedroom under cover of thick bedsheets and the girls involved in such films are paid huge amount of money and honored with prestigious awards, then Indian girls are only a few inches away from performing sexual intercourse on the screen (both large and small).

If huge amount of money is offered, if pregnancy can be prevented and if sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented, then the Indian girls most probably may not hesitate to perform sexual intercourse on the screen. There is nothing to wonder, because by that time sexual intercourse on the screen would be regarded as a prestigious legal profession. Most probably prostitutes would also enjoy similar status in the society in that future era. Then why girls would hesitate to adopt prostitution as a profession in lieu of a huge salary? After all income of huge money makes all professions prestigious!

I have forecast the above hypothetical picture only to demonstrate what an unhealthy atmosphere may be created if prostitution is further legalized. Those who plead strongly and loudly about further legalization of prostitution would any one of them gladly allow their daughters to adopt prostitution as a profession even-if it is fully legalized and a huge salary is offered? Would they send their sons to such prostitutes to sexually enjoy paying a good amount as client’s fees?

In my opinion it is better to make sincerest efforts (by Govt as well as non-Govt organizations) for eradication, prevention of prostitution and rehabilitation of the prostitutes. Although it is an extremely difficult goal to achieve, it can be achieved. Despite the sincerest efforts if a few prostitutes remain refractory to the efforts, let them be satisfied with their profession remaining as a not illegal profession without public recognition. However the efforts should be sincere and continuous. No further legalization of a not illegal profession is necessary.

By Dr Narayan Udgata 

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